Tipping etiquette can be confusing in any country. But it's even more confusing when you're venturing across borders, like many travelers do in Central America. Tipping in Central America varies from country to country, and often among businesses in the same category (like a higher-end restaurant versus a café). Sometimes a service charge ("la propina
" or "servicio
") is included in your check at a restaurant, and other times it isn't.
In general, Central America waitstaff should be tipped at least 10%, and taxi drivers around 10% at your discretion (especially if they help with your luggage). Local currency is fine, but US dollars are always appreciated. When in doubt? Tip! Service workers in Central America typically make low wages, often staggeringly so. Tipping is a great way to get your tourist dollars into the hands of people who need them.
Tipping in Costa Rica:
In Costa Rica
restaurants and cafes, a 10% charge is almost always added to the bill. The service charge will be listed separately from the tax. Tipping above this (included) amount isn't necessary, although it's very much appreciated for spectacular service. In hotels, it's expected that you tip a bellhop who handles your luggage; approximately 200-300 colones (around fifty cents US) per suitcase is appropriate. It's also nice to leave a tip for the hotel housekeeper. Always tip your tour operator or Divemaster; around 10% of the cost of the tour is usually sufficient.
Tipping in Belize:
, service charges or tips aren't typically included on restaurant bills, though some large resorts in touristy destinations do include them. A tip of 10 – 15% is appropriate, depending on level of service. Some Belize hotels and resorts include a 10% service charge on bills upon checkout, to cover bellhops and housekeepers; no additional tip is required. However, it's tour operators and Divemasters definitely should be tipped; The amount depends on the cost of the tour and whether it's private (10-15% of the tour cost) or a group tour (a few dollars).
Tipping in El Salvador:
The national currency in El Salvador
is the US dollar, which makes currency conversation and tipping relatively easy. Service charges are added to some restaurant bills in El Salvador (particularly upscale restaurants) – always check. If the charge isn't included, a 10-15% tip is appreciated. Tip your bellhop between fifty cents and $1 per suitcase at El Salvador hotels, and around $1 per day for housekeeping. Be sure to tip tour operators and guides, anything from a few dollars on up, depending on the cost and length of the tour.
Tipping in Guatemala:
Tips or services charges are only occasionally added to the bill in Guatemala
restaurants, more frequently in touristy destinations like Antigua. In general, tip around 10%. You should also tip Guatemala tour guides and operators, around 10% of the cost of the tour. Tip hotel housekeepers around $1 per day of your stay, and porters/bellhops around fifty cents to $1 per suitcase.
Tipping in Nicaragua:
Some restaurants in Nicaragua
add tips or service charges, others don't – always make sure to check your bill before you pay. If not, a tip isn't expected, but a 10% tip (or more, for great service!) is very much appreciated by Nicaraguan wait staff. In hotels, tip bellhops around $1 US/20 córdobas per bag, and the same per night of your stay for housekeeping staff.
Tipping in Honduras:
, tips are only added to bills at more upscale restaurants, for the most part. Otherwise, add around 10-15%. Like most other Central America countries, leaving around $1 US a day for hotel housekeeping is appreciated. Always make sure to tip your tour guide or tour operator (some live entirely off tips).
Tipping in Panama:
Like El Salvador, the national currency in Panama
is the US dollar, which simplifies both currency conversation and tipping. Sometimes service charges are included in restaurant bills, but usually not; leaving a tip of around 10% is sufficient. Tip bellhops fifty cents to $1 per bag, and housekeeping the same per night, depending on the caliber of your hotel. As always, tip your tour guide or tour operator: a few bucks for a shorter tour, a bit more for a longer excursion.